Old Cemetery, New Tricks

One of the best things about New York City is that every place you step has a rich and storied history.  The East Village is rife with such tales and the New York City Marble Cemetery, where one of the young hawks recently spent an afternoon frolicking around, is no different.  

At its heyday in the 1830s, the cemetery was a fashionable place to be buried.  Underground marble vaults were thought to prevent the spread of yellow fever that had plagued the city since the 1790s.  President James Monroe was buried there in 1831 (and later moved) and there is even a prominent shipping merchant buried there…his name is, we kid you not, Preserved Fish.

According to Ephemeral New York, in the 1890s, Jacob Riis wanted to turn a nearby marble cemetery (the New York Marble Cemetery, which was started by the same people) into a playground for street kids who had no other place to play.  It didn’t happen quite how he intended, but a young hawk certainly had some fun there last week…

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The young hawks are now 3 months old and they are learning to hunt.  Their parents are still making sure they are well fed in the meantime.  The cemetery is a perfect place for the hawk to practice: abundant squirrels and pigeons to go after and no people to get in the way! 

And this hawk was all over the place! It was very inquisitive.  Here it jumped on a bench…

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And examined some greenery…

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Here it is peeking behind a gravestone at a hidden squirrel…

“I’ll get you!!”

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“Where’d you go?”

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Later, it had a face off in a tree with a brazen squirrel…

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Then the hawk lunged at it…

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…but it was just posturing.  Maybe practicing its menacing looks.

It spotted something on the ground…

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…a squirrel out in the open…

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…it dove after it!

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…to no avail.

At one point, the hawk was on a fire escape at the back of the cemetery for a while and some of the animals became braver, coming closer to us to see if we were offering any food (we weren’t)…

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Later the hawk was exploring the ivy-covered wall on the western edge of the cemetery…

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…and a squirrel was on the corner of the fence in a conundrum: it was exposed with a peanut in its mouth.  

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So its options were to drop the nut and make a run for it or stay still and hope it wasn’t found out.  It took option B and quietly cried in fear – but thankfully it wasn’t discovered as its cries were muted by the peanut (the same mechanics as a trumpet mute!).

While the hawk flew around a lot, even above the fence once, surprising the humans on the sidewalk nearby…

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…the funniest moments were when the hawk was stalking prey on the ground.  Here, the hawk sees something in the shrub…

After hours of exploration, the hawk flew up out of the cemetery and over 1st Avenue…

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…circling higher and higher and eventually out of view into the summer sunset.

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